A Travellerspoint blog

CASABLANCA - MY KINDA TOWN

Commercial Hub? Yes, Think Sao Paulo or Milan, but with pockets of resistance...

Shukrans and Mercis were exhanged instead of bullets
The immigration officer at the airport said "Kardas" (Brother) as he stamped my passport, the customs guy said "Arkadas" (Friend) as he pretended to inspect my declarations form. That's what I call a nice and warm welcome as opposed to the cold "Fuck you" you get in some countries' borders. You know who you are.

Casablanca has a bad reputation for being a commercial hub, that's the tourists' lingo for "boring." As a traveler and not as a tourist, I beg to differ.

What's so boring about visiting a magnificent Mosque rising from the Atlantic shore? So what if over half a billion dollars was spent in construction? (some argue that money would be better spent in fighting poverty) It is true, as is the case with most developing countries, that you do see the slums on the way from the airport but in a city that lacks a landmark, Hassan II mosque gives Casa the bragging rights for having the tallest minaret in the world. Subsequently, more tourist spend a day or two longer at Casa instead flying in and out. So it's a long term strategic move, not a shortsighted tactical one.

Or what's wrong about sipping super sweat mint tea as you watch the locals go by, wearing anything from Hijabs to almost nothing, and djellaba to Harley Davidson jackets.

Or what's so boring about Tagine with prunes and almonds? Brilliant fruit juices with cardamom and flower extracts?

What's not fun about a big old hairy dude scraping your epidermis violently with the bath version of sandpaper in a Hammam (I'll admit, the subsequent pouring of piping hot water is not so fun)

Isn't sweating in the 2nd class train car with locals fun? and discussing Moroccan politics as they refuse to believe I am not Moroccan (as is the case with Spanish in Queens, NY). Gotta love the olive skin. Fits in nicely in most places. Couldn't quite pull it off in Kenya, and Asia's looking pretty bleak too but what the hell.

And the Moroccans. Such passion. I hailed a cab, as I was explaining that I wanted to go to Hammam Ziani with my half ass French, some random dude on the street noticed my distress and sneaked his head in the car and yelled something to the driver in Arabic. The driver started yelling back at him. At some point the facial and hand gestures got so heated, and voices were raised so high that I felt like I should flee the scene to avoid getting caught in a shoot out, or witnessing a murder. But to my surprise, Shukrans and Mercis were exhanged instead of bullets at the end. Turns out the guy was trying to give directions to the Hammam.

So, commercial, crowded, loud, passionate(!) and fast it is. That's what makes it real.

Posted by Goneash 16:31 Archived in Morocco Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Nairobi

Where Beer is Warm, Showers are Cold, Left is Right, Right is Left, and you can fold-raise

My luggage made it to Nairobi, what a delight. I will splurge on a cab ride to the hotel to celebrate! Plus, I've heard so many carjacking and mugging stories, that I don't want to venture on a hail marry pass Matatu (individually owned bus) ride. I hailed a cab instead, as the driver was putting my luggage in the trunk, I took the shotgun. Why is there a wheel here? Oh right, they drive on the left here. Ok, switch. I arrived at my hotel. Dumped the luggage in the room. I always reward myself with a local brew after a long flight. This time it was the Kenyan "Tusker," named as such after the founder was supposedly killed by an elephant. The bartender asked if I wanted my Tusker warm or cold. Who drinks warm beer? It wasn't a funny joke, especially after a 15+ hour flight over 8 time zones (I may be totally making up the time zone thing). It turned out it wasn't a joke at all. Locals do drink their beer warm. I had a cold one instead and went up to my room. I was tired but wanted to get rid of at least the top layer of dirt off. The shower was cold, I sucked it up and took one. Later on I called the reception to complain, they said cold knob was for hot water and hot knob was for the cold water. In other words, left was right, right was left.

I slept, hoping the next day beer would be cold, showers would be hot and left would be left which would leave right with no choice, but to be right by default.

Nairobi, infamously nicknamed Nairobbery, lives up to its reputation. I have met a guy who have been robbed 3 times in two separate instances. Yes, the math is right. In one instance he was robbed twice. For the novice reader, here's how it works: He took a Matatu and as he was getting out of it he realized his phone was missing. He said he would not leave without it. Locals yelled at the usual suspects to give the phone back. The victim took his phone back and got out, only to notice his cash was gone. Yes, they somehow pickpocketed him for cash while returning his phone. Hats off, that's bold. The poker equivalent of this move would be fold - raise.

So this Canadian dude, who have been living in Nairobi for 3 months working for an NGO, suggested that we grab a beer later at the cheapest place: The "lounge" (think a room full of picnic tables on a dirt floor) of the police station. That's right. The lounge is in the police station. Not "near", "across" or "around" but in the station. The beer was cheap as promised but he did warn me, police station lounvge could be either the safest place to drink (because it's in the police station) or it could be the most dangerous place to drink (because it's in the police station). Simply because police are as corrupt as it gets. They could lock us up for any or no reason, and accept cash as bail. Who knows. I believed him. Being genuinely offered a warm beer makes you a believer.

I shipped out of Nairobi next morning.

Posted by Goneash 14:37 Archived in Kenya Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

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